18th Jun2019

Panel Discussion #56: Top Picks for 6/19/2019

by Dan Clark

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Welcome to another installment of Weekly Picks where I take a look at the comics I am most excited about for this upcoming New Comic Book Day. Keep in mind I have yet to read these books so this is based solely on expectations. Sometimes expectations can get the best of us so I try to even it out by also pointing out what could also go wrong.

American Carnage #8

Writer: Bryan Edward Hill | Artist: Leandro Fernandez | Publisher: Vertigo Comics

Solicitation: Bullets fly and blood flows when Richard’s plan to exfiltrate one of Jennifer’s childhood friends from the white nationalist narcotics business goes awry. Meanwhile, Sheila’s new FBI overlord makes his move as DC Vertigo’s acclaimed Los Angeles crime saga continues in this stunning issue.

Why I am Excited: If I was to pick the best comic of 2019 so far American Carnage would probably be the book I would choose. This is the best series Vertigo has done since Scalped, and similar to Scalped it centers on complex and nuanced characters within an extremely hostile setting. Bryan Edward Hill handles the social commentary with tact and unique insight. With this being the penultimate issue the story is at its most dire. Also, Leandro Fernandez art goes a long way to set the mood with this series. Shadowing dominates much of the page to highlight the murky waters the characters have found themselves in. For a series where race is just a key component, it is a bold choice to make facial features nearly indistinguishable at times causing you to almost forget the central issue driving many of their actions. It has done more than make you think, it makes you reexamine people you have assumed you already firmly defined.

Why I am Concerned: Considering there are only two issues left this may not be the best jumping on point for new readers. You may be better of waiting on the trade if you cannot hunt down the individual issues. If there was one story concern it is that what has been strongly built since the beginning gets lost in stereotypical relationship drama of the two main characters. If there is one key weakness to this story it is the romatnic relationship between them. Depending on how it concludes it could negatively impact the core of what has worked thus far.

Usagi Yojimbo #1

Writer/Artist: Stan Sakai | Publisher: IDW

Solicitation: Follow the adventures of rabbit ronin Miyamoto Usagi as he wanders Edo period Japan on his warrior’s journey. In the start of this three-part story, Usagi becomes embroiled in a puppet drama where the players are not quite what they seem! Written, drawn, and lettered by comics legend Stan Sakai! Colors by Tom Luth (Groo the Wanderer)!

Why I am Excited: Usagi Yojimbo has been one of the longest-running series in comics so do not let the #1 next to its name fool you. Now it has left is longtime home Dark Horse to now be published by IDW. Despite how long this series has run one of the best things about it is how new reader friendly it has been even when the issue numbers were in the triple digits. Stan Sakai has found an impressive amount of ways to use the character of Usagi Yojimbo as a vehicle to tell original and compelling stories. His last series Usagi Yojimbo The Hidden was one of the best stories for the series in quite some time.

Why I am Concerned: One of the biggest changes is not just the publisher but also that this will be in color. Adding color to a comic may not seem like a big deal but for this series it does mark a major change. My concern is with this going to a new publisher that this is a gimmick move to grab attention, or perhaps even worse this is a case of a new publisher trying to make a book something it is not to fit into more easily consumable modern sensibility.

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Superman: Year One #1

Writer: Frank Miller | Artist: John Romita Jr. | Publisher: DC Comics – Black Label

Solicitation: From the burning world of Krypton to the bucolic fields of Kansas, the first chapter of SUPERMAN YEAR ONE tracks Clark Kent’s youth in Kansas, as he comes to terms with his strange powers and struggles to find his place in our world. DC BLACK LABEL is proud to present the definitive origin of Superman as rendered by the legendary comics creators Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.!

Why am Excited: There is really no need to restate up the many accolades of Frank Miller. The man is an icon in the industry and behind some of the greatest comics of all time. Whenever he is putting out something new there is a reason to be interested. John Romita Jr.’s art style is not everyone’s favorite as there appears to be a growing number of people who take issue with his style. However, he can still do so fantastic work when on the right property. Recently on books like The Silencer and All-Star Batman he showed he is one of the best at rendering brutality. With Miller behind this story, one can safely assume he will tap into that skill once again.

Why I am Concerned: Despite Frank Miller’s legacy, he has had his fair share of duds especially with his most recent work that has not been nearly as polished. His Batman: Year One story is for me the best Batman story ever, but I worry this is DC tapping the well dry once again by going back to what once worked instead of trying to do something new. That’s assuming this comes out at all after this issue. Hopefully, with it only being a limited series allthe issues will come out on time because Miller has had his fair share of major delays. Hopefully, this will not be another Black Label book that simply never comes out. (We are still waiting on Batman Damned #3!)

Excellence #2

Writer: Brandon Thomas | Artist: Khary Randolph | Publisher: Image Comics

Solicitation: The Aegis protects the world, but not everyone is equal is their eyes. A lesson their newest recruit, Spencer Dales, learns the hard way when he crosses the Aegis’s unseen master: the Overseer!

Why I am Excited: Excellence #1 was one of the better first issues I read this year. It had a great balance of character and world building that centered on a compelling father and son relationship. How a proud father can place a level of expectations far too great on his child that are impossible to meet, and how inevitable failure will lead to emotional separation. Oh, and it had cool magic battles which Khary Randolph clearly had a lot of fun drawing.

Why I am Concerned: Sometimes good first issues do not always lead to great series. Looking at the setup of this narrative there is a concern it can get lost within the intricate machinations of the magical fantasy world it is creating. So far everyone is quite clear, but that can change if the story focus changes from the story of these characters to the story of this world. Where the concept takes precedence over what made the first issue so effective.

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Daredevil #7

Writer: Chip Zdarsky | Artist: Lalit Kumar Sharma | Publisher: Marvel Comics

Solicitation: In the aftermath of Chip Zdarsky’s explosive first arc of DAREDEVIL, the ground of Hell’s Kitchen has shifted and Matthew Murdock has emerged a changed man…but for better or worse? Don’t miss the second installment of this new arc: “No Gods, Only Devils”!

Why I am Excited: What a writer Chip Zdarsky has grown into as one could argue he may be Marvel’s most consistent writer at the moment. Plus Daredevil may be his best work yet. It is not that this run is redefining what makes a great Daredevil book. He is simply doing what has made Daredevil such a strong character throughout his tenure as a character and tweaking it just a bit so it does not feel redundant. Strong characterization can go a long way and by slowly chipping away at Daredevil’s life he brought him to the brink of extinction. Now with this arc the rise back has begun.

Why I am Concerned: Last issue was the first without artist Marco Checchetto and his absence was ever present. Lalit Kumar Sharma’s art does the job it needs to do but does not quite have the life to it that Checchetto’s does–to be fair that is quite a high bar to reach. This arc is also more lowkey as Matthew Murdock is “Daredevil No More”. So will the book be as interesting with Murdock focusing no his everyday life rather than his late night activities? Zdarsky spent some time in the first arc building up a cast of characters that may take up the mantle for the absent Man without Fear so perhaps things will not slow down a great deal. Either way this will most likely be a more subdued narrative compared to the first arc where great patience may be required.

Other books I am looking forward to this week:

  • Gideon Falls #14
  • Farmhand #9
  • Middlewest #8
  • Skyward #14
  • Little Bird #4
  • Assassin Nation #4
  • Livewire #7
  • Mary Shelley: Monster Hunter #3
  • Batman #73
  • Planet of The Nerds #3
  • Lab Raider #1
  • Warlord of Mars Attacks #1
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